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Weeding out some of the bad neighbors from the good ones

Bobs Column - The B SideWhen my elderly next-door neighbor inexplicably jogged one evening across his backyard, tripped over the garden hose and fell to the ground, I knew he wasn’t likely to be my neighbor much longer.
It took all my all my strength with an assist from my elderly father to get him to his feet. Thankfully, he was OK, but his days living independently with his wife were numbered.
I could tell for some time that he was slipping, becoming forgetful and losing his train of thought. It was difficult for his wife to care for him by herself. And so, after living for more than 50 years in the same house, my neighbors moved into an assisted living facility.
I was sad to see them go. They were good people. They’d been my neighbors since 1995, when my family bought our home in Oak Lawn. They remembered the neighborhood before the streets were paved and watched Oak Lawn develop around them. They were good to my children, loved to chat across the fence and were reliable.
John and Olivia also are reliable.
They moved into my former neighbors’ house shortly after they left, having struck a deal to rent the place temporarily. A few months ago, they talked of moving, but then announced that they bought the house next to me instead.
I was delighted.
They too are good people. During the past two extensive electrical outages, John immediately offered us the opportunity to hook up to his gas generator.
During the two days that my part of Oak Lawn was once again without power, we had a running refrigerator, computer modem, window air conditioning unit and some light thanks to John and Olivia.
John has lent me tools, done work at my house, and introduced me to the best handy man I’ve known.
Over the weekend, I spotted John and his family unloading the van with shades, gallons of paint and other home improvement stuff. The house is theirs now and they’re making an investment. They have landscaping plans and other ideas. Nothing beats a neighbor who’s proud of his home and is constantly caring for his property.
Don and Karen are reliable, too.
They’re my neighbors on the other side of my house. They’ve lived in their home for decades. Last week, Don and I stood in front of his house moments after lighting hit my massive parkway tree causing it to fall into his house. Amazingly, the house suffered only minimal damage and no one was hurt.
In 1967, the tornado that ripped through Oak Lawn caused the north wall of Don’s house to collapse into the south wall of my home. I guess Don has had his fair share of weather-related incidents.
Don sits on his porch quite a bit, catches my attention when I’m getting out of the car, and we talk about this and that—my children, his grandchildren, neighbors and so on.
When it snows heavily, my children shovel his walk. If he needs something, I try to oblige. I like the guy.
I know that there will never be an incident at John and Olivia’s house or Don and Karen’s place. I’ll never call the police because of a late-night party or a domestic disturbance or notify the village because they’ve failed to keep up their property. Quite simply, they’re not that kind of people.
If there ever were an issue, I’d talk to them and work it out because that’s what neighbors do.
Most neighbors, anyway.
I have other neighbors with whom I have a different relationship.
To wit, weeds tend to grow near the privacy fence that screens my backyard from the alley. We don’t use our garage or alley very often, so occasionally we don’t notice the weeds. Still, I try to cut them back a few times during the summer. A few weeks ago, my wife decided to attack the weeds and was greeted with, “It’s about time,” from a disapproving neighbor.
My question is, “Why?” What motivates a person to say that? What’s in it for them?
We do some form of yard work almost every weekend. The weeds in the alley may not be our biggest concern. But we don’t ignore them either.
It is this same neighbor, I believe, who called the police because my dog was barking for a long period of time to get into the house. Were this a regular occurrence, I’d understand, but our dog is almost never in the backyard for more than 10 minutes at a time. Typically, she barks once and someone opens the door.
The day she barked repeatedly—in the middle of the afternoon, mind you—was a rare exception that did not require police attention. But a neighbor decided that was the way to address it. Calling the police sent a message.
My son recently saw a guy walking down our block, looking into the windows of cars. That’s when you call the police. In fact, the police encourage residents to call anytime they see something suspicious no matter how small. That’s how crime is deterred.
If you have good neighbors, count yourself lucky. If they’re happy to help you out, take a moment to chat, watch you home when you’re on vacation, you’re fortunate.
Good neighbors are important. Without them, the community likely would go to the dogs.